Matter, Form, and Privation

Story by Domenika Marzione | Art by Anna Luna


She was bound to the bed on the second day, tied at the wrist to the rails, only freed to eat or to visit the outhouse (which was indoors). It was a peculiar kind of imprisonment; their hatred against the Wraith's indifference, their gentleness against the Wraith's rough care. After they found out that she was koreos, they stopped speaking of sending her to another planet to live, but they took away the Wraith beacon and so she still considered herself free.

Ronon came to visit her on the third day. He hadn't spoken to her at all since the first day. He wasn't of these people, was another of their foundlings, and she expected that he hated her because his world had been destroyed by the Wraith and she was their tool.

He pulled up a stool and snarled at the guards and they stood back, clearly afraid of him.

"They've decided what to do with you," he said without preamble. He didn't look at her, rather over her, as if he couldn't stand the sight. "They're giving you back to the Wraith."

She stared at him and he finally looked at her, challenging and angry.

"Why?" she asked, biting her lip to keep back tears. It didn't work and she could not reach up to her face to wipe them away. "How could they do that after freeing me from their control?"

An ironic smile from Ronon. "Because you lied to them," he replied. "Because they don't want to help murderers."

"Then they should just kill me," she protested, pulling at the bindings on her wrist. The metal railings made enough noise to draw her guards closer and Ronon drove them back again with only a look. "They don't understand!"

He put his hand on the one of hers closest to him and she felt warm metal against cool skin. He squeezed hard enough to hurt and she looked up at him. He stared back at her, challenging her to be quiet. She did.

"I do," he said in a low voice.

She shifted so that her body was between her hand and the guards' view. Turning her wrist slightly, she could see a folding knife in her palm.

"Use this to do what they don't have the courage to," he said, his voice almost a rumble. "Go to the Ancestors before they give you to the Wraith."

She had enough movement in her wrist to put the knife in the waist of the pants she'd been given to wear. It would keep there until she could go to the outhouse and find a better place for it.

"Why are you helping me?" she asked in a whisper.

"I was once a koreos, too," he answered.

She stared. He stared back.

"They didn't give you back," she accused, looking away first.

"I didn't lie to them," he said. "I didn't confess to killing worlds."

"Did you?" she shot back, looking up again.

"I never let anyone else bear my burden," he replied. He stood up. "They're taking you to their prison tomorrow. Find your way to the Ancestors tonight."

He left her then.

She feigned sleep for a while; it was hard to tell the passing of time when she couldn't see the sky. But it was enough to turn over Ronon's news in her mind. She understood their decision -- she would be a gift to the Wraith in return for peace. But she had no intention of letting the Wraith have her again. And she didn't want to use Ronon's gift to do what the Wraith would not. She wanted to live.

If she could escape from this world, then the Wraith would never be able to find her. She remembered the way to the Ring of the Ancestors from where she had been brought, which could not be that far away from where she was now. She had not seen where they entered the Ring's symbols -- it was something she always looked for when coming to a world -- but it would be close to the Ring; it always was.

Her guards were strong and armed, but there were only three of them and however strong they were, they weren't Wraith. Three days of food and comfort and medicine had left her feeling stronger than she had ever remembered being. The folding knife Ronon had given her was thin, but it was sharp and it would suffice. She would have to leave without her satchel or her boots, but that would be a small sacrifice, especially if she were able to go among people again and acquire new provisions.

The night would be easiest -- her guards remained, but everyone else disappeared. There would be a doctor -- a small, fine-boned woman --but the other patients would be asleep and the noise from the hallway would be less.

She ate her meal, taking the opportunity to flex and stretch her wrists, hands, and arms. The guards watched her move, but not with any wariness and they let her sit for a while after she'd finished eating without binding her again. She was bound again until it was time to sleep and then she was taken to the outhouse once more. Her legs were a little unsteady from lying abed, so she jumped up and down in the privacy of the room, washed her face as she'd been expected to, and took the knife from her pants, testing the opening mechanism so that she could do it without thought.

She emerged from the room slowly and shyly, docile under the guards' eyes. Two waited outside the door for her and the third by her bed, one hand on his pistol. She waited until they were in the open, as far open as the cluttered room got, and then she moved. The blade open in her hand, she sliced at the neck of one guard, feeling the knife cut easily through skin. The second guard reached for her and she ducked, kicking out and twisting free as the chaos began. Shouting for the doctor, shouting for more guards, and the third of her original detail was running for her, running after her as she fled into the hall, levering away from another man dressed as her guards were.

In the hall, she had to turn left, straight until the doorway, right along the next passage, left again at the second door. She heard heavy boot steps close behind her, running fast and shouting loudly. At her, for others, she neither knew nor cared and then it didn't matter because he disappeared. The halls confused her, so unlike what she was used to and so similar to each other. She feared herself lost, worrying that she'd have to hide in its passageways until she could make her escape from this fortress, until the doorway to her right opened and she could see the Ring beyond the guards who came toward her.

"Freeze!" one bellowed at her, weapon aimed at her. "Hands over your head!"

She did as he said, waiting for the six to draw closer. Six was too many to fight off at once, but what choice did she have? She could try to grab one of the pistols they wore on their thighs.

"Put your hands against the wall," the same one ordered. "Feet apart. Move and we shoot."

Closer, closer, until she could feel a large hand on her wrist. As he grabbed, she spun, pulling the pistol from its lashing and--


John went to the medical suite after Captain Radner politely assured him that he could oversee the cleanup of the hallway and the taking of statements for the official write-up. He passed by the area where Eriksson's marines already had the mops and buckets out, the casings retrieved, and had seen to the transportation of Ailinthé's body to the morgue. The marines who'd been involved in the shooting were all in the small conference room, sitting silently under the watch of Eriksson's gunnery sergeant. It would be a clean shoot, of that John had no doubt, but it had still been the killing of an extremely unpopular prisoner in their custody and they needed to play it by the book.

Once in the infirmary, he was greeted by a stoic Elizabeth, clearly affected but keeping her reaction under control so that she could comfort the still-shaken Doctor Yee. Elizabeth gave him a meaningful look, the sort that would normally translate as "we'll talk about this later," except for the fact that they couldn't.

The two injured marines, Sergeants Mooney and Pence, were surrounded by their squadmates as well as the marine orderlies. Mooney had taken a knife to the neck and was lying on a bed, but Pence only had a badly sprained wrist and was sitting on a stool with his wrapped right wrist on his lap.

"Judging from the noise you guys are making, I don't think I need to ask how Mooney and Pence are doing," he said as he came up to them. "But I will anyway."

"I'm fine, sir," Mooney said in a hoarse whisper. His neck was bandaged neatly. "I'm not supposed to be talking, though."

"Sergeant!" A voice warned from across the room. John turned to see Safir's back as he was writing up notes; Safir was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and had obviously been called in for the occasion. "Keep quiet now or you'll be sounding like Don Corleone forever."

Mooney grinned, but said no more.

"You good, Pence?" John asked, gesturing with his chin to the bandaged arm.

"Yes, sir," Pence replied.

"Dude's just gotta jack it left-handed for a couple of weeks," Sergeant Grier told the marine next to him.

"You can always help," Ferdidi told him.

"That's your job, Dog."

John left the marines to their humor with a shake of his head and went over to Safir. "Well?"

Safir gave him a tiresome look. "Well, Mooney is luckier than he has any right to be. Your Runner only nicked his jugular and she did it in the infirmary so he didn't bleed out. His tracheal damage is minimal because she hit a cartilage ring at the wrong angle. He'll be fine in a couple of days. Pence isn't hurt enough to give narcotics to."

John nodded. "Thanks."

"I'm only doing my job," Safir replied with a shrug. "Or Yee's job, actually, but we can leave that aside for now. If you want to give reassurances of value, however, tomorrow you can make sure to tell Beckett and Clayton that this wasn't their fault."

"Uh, okay?" John agreed slowly.

Safir stood up. "They did the exam and they will be wondering why they didn't notice any weapons on her person," he said evenly. "If they missed the knife that nearly gave Sergeant Mooney a tracheotomy, then they will both feel very guilty."

John stared at him. Safir wouldn't be inferring what it sounded like he was inferring -- would he? Safir stared right back, however, as if he were daring John to call him on it.

"I know that I felt very ashamed that I had missed just how many weapons Ronon hid on his person when I performed his exam," Safir went on, still holding John's gaze. "I was fortunate that Ronon turned out to be a friend. But my similar situation and my assurances will mean a lot less than yours will. Carson has his delicate flower moments and Nancy is low on the totem pole and will fear her dismissal from the team. A word from you or Doctor Weir would go far."

John, still not sure whether Safir was helping him with his story or browbeating him into exculpating his colleagues, exhaled slowly. "I'll make sure they both know that there was nothing they could have done here."

Safir gave him a curt nod. "Good. Now I'm getting out of here before Yee decides that she's too traumatized to work to the end of her shift. Goodnight."

Safir left and John stood where he was, still thinking the doctor's words through. Yoni was shrewd, suspicious, and had spent the better part of a year on Lorne's team. It wasn't out of the realm of possibility that he'd figured it out. He wasn't worried about Safir talking, but he was worried that if Safir had figured it out so easily, then everyone else would, too.

Elizabeth came over and leaned against the counter across from him. "Yoni said that everything was fine when I asked. Did he say something different to you?"

John gave her a crooked smile. "Since when has Safir pussyfooted anyone?"

Elizabeth tipped her head in amused acknowledgement.

"He just wanted to warn me that Doctors Clayton and Beckett might need a little positive reinforcement tomorrow," he went on in the same light tone. "For missing the knife when they gave her the exam the first day."

"Oh," Elizabeth replied after a moment. "I'll be sure to meet with both of them tomorrow, then."

John looked around the infirmary. Doctor Yee had gone back to her station, the marine orderlies watching her carefully. The crowd around Mooney and Pence was still there, but they looked like they were about to break up so that the healthy could go back to their posts.

"So it's over," Elizabeth said, pushing off of the counter. "For now."

"For now," John agreed. Both of them knew that it never really would be.

"This galaxy has brought out the best in us," she said as they made their way to the exit, "But I hate that it has consistently found new ways to plumb our depths."

Comment to Anna about the art via LJ

Comment to me about the story via LJ

Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/Epilogue

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21 August, 2006